2001: A Space Odyssey – Whose Classic?

Quick Thoughts: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Stanley Kubrick’s film that needs no introduction from me…


Whew… what can I say about this one? We all know it, have our theories and yeah it’s an undeniable classic–a little slow, but great nonetheless. My favourite thing about this film is its cold distance. I think that says more about me than the film, but making something of such personal vision that becomes a classic is more than inspiring. The film is slow, disjointed, clunky in parts (especial with dialogue) and of course, as with most of Kubrick’s pictures, it’s cold and distant. But I think that’s what we all love about his films. They’re a mark above us all and they kind of know it. Someone says Kubrick, the next person says genius–in all likelihood. I’m not going to dispute facts of his personal character, I don’t know the guy, but it’s clear that’s the weight he holds. His filmography demands raised palms a bit of back-pedalling. You may not love his films, but can’t really say they’re bad. And I think this is because of the austere tone each moment of his movies are imbued with. His films are almost like an asshat know-it-all that you depend on for the answers for tests. Yes, he/she looks down on you, yes they’re clearly smarter–you might not like that–but, they get 100% on the test and you’re kind of using them. This is the grey area of criticism in my view. To critique is to assume your opinion is above a film–whether you love it or not. There is no passivity in criticism–I’m not saying there should be, but if you want to question what art is, well… in my opinion art is emotional output. In short, you take what you’re feeling and funnel it through a medium–same goes with all human output, but I don’t want to veer off on too large a tangent. If art, film, is just someone’s feelings (in a soppy, gooey sense) then why do we revere other feelings on top of those feelings – critics opinions. And, yes, the obvious answer is ‘we assume they know what they’re going on about’ or ‘I agree with Ebert almost all the time’. But, to stay within the existential and nihilistic: is that right? To flip the tables and possibly lose you: we’re recycling feelings. Kubrick feels this, it goes into a film. That feeds into a critic, then us. That’s the much abbreviated version. In truth there are a myriad of opinions that influenced Kubrick, ourselves, the critic. I mean, we could get into a horrible cycle of nature vs. nurture and social conditioning here, but I’ll let you insert the mental gymnastics. All I want to convey is that Kubrick’s slow, meandering and amazingly ambiguous classic maybe just works because it is so bland, yet so deep. Like an endless bowl of porridge. Yeah, it’s just porridge–BUT IT GOES ON FOREVER!! You’d get people lining more than around the block for that one–world hunger cured–that’s if Umbeke’s mother could convince him it’s better than just slop, but, off point. What Kubrick does with 2001 is hint at the impossibly ambiguous whilst saying very little. This is the beauty of pictures: they explain themselves. The less of a human, the less emotion (maybe the less art) in a piece of art (paradoxical, I know) the better it is. I don’t know who said it, but: the best art is hidden. What does this mean? People love themselves. 2001 basically gives anyone the tools to dive into unfathomable philosophical thought, into their own art (emotional output). Maybe this is why it’s a classic.

All in all, 2001, maybe not Kubrick’s classic. Maybe it’s all of ours. Maybe it’s just mine.




Pi – Perceptual Paradigms

Quick Thoughts: Pi

Darren Aronofsky’s 1998 masterpiece. This follows Max Cohen a ‘numbers whiz’ on a psychological journey toward what could be God.


First thing’s first, I love this film–obviously. It blends reality with fantasy to portray the crushing surreal experience of simply not knowing. The film appeals to viewer’s intrigue of numbers, patterns, consequence with a formalised routine of its character to slowly descend into the depths of his anxieties. Though we all may not love maths (in any way shape or form) the film appeals to us on a cognitive level–off the basis the pragmatic human perception of patterns. The same thing that makes you think your iPod is conspiring against you, playing the same songs over and over, is what drives the connection between us and the character. To paraphrase what he repeatedly tells us: patterns can be found in nature, they are apart of it and so maths can explain it. I think all people hold this belief in their very core. To think that your perception is worthy of the world is to assume there’s a pattern. To think that your business plan, work schedule, life choices can get you where you want to be is to assume there’s a workable paradigm to life and nature. Through Max, the film gives us an insight into a near omnipotence–at least, to me, with being able to calculate anything a calculator can at the drop of a hat. Honestly, it sounds like a super power–one that’d get boring pretty quick, but, a super power nonetheless. Being able to calculate anything for Max is the viewer being able to know the perfect tweet to send to get their favourite celebrity to tweet back, follow them, fall into their intricately planned kidnapping scheme–or whatever people want from favourite celebrities–such a strange idea. Off point. Max’s abilities attract us to the film, as it basically implies that we can have an hour and a half of feeling we’ve got the answers to the questions, the code to suite the paradigm of our lives; living. To stay general, Max using maths to find God is nothing more than the everyday pursuit of success. Of course success and pursuit define Max’s search without the majority of the previous as evidence, but beyond the obvious, the film shows that success is little more than finding a path–calculating the perfect equation–finding that number hidden in a script countless others have lived by. In short, Max meeting God is you getting your Oscar or promotion at work–big jump down, but we’ve all got different goals. The film demonstrates that people see life as little more than a pattern; that we believe we are above the universe we come from; that we can comprehend the systems that made us. In my opinion, this is folly. The pursuit for eternal life, knowledge or general omnipotence is going to end up with a deranged reflection in a grimy bathroom mirror that looks like what could be you, but with a hand drill pressed against his/her temple, inevitably going to pull that trigger and push the drill bit in.

All in all, you’ve got what you’ve got in life. More? A question we maybe shouldn’t ask ourselves as much. Here’s me writing to be heard though, so know that I accept the fact that ‘more?’ is an imperative to the human condition, but, I don’t know… giving ourselves a break once in a while could help. What do you think


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